Monday, August 31, 2009
This would not be a bad book for this purpose. Covering eight women in two generations, it explores, in brief vignettes, the life, love, and loss of women of Chinese heritage. The mothers all came from China to the United States, and their (mostly sad) history in China is covered. The daughters all have uneasy relationships with their mothers, and their own problems with life, even though they are not living through wars.
While there is nothing that would make this book objectionable for middle school students, I don't know that they would find it very interesting. It's very philosophical; very little happens. I looked at about 90 interest inventories over the weekend, and the number one thing students dislike is nothing happening in a book.
I suppose I should read Gone With the Wind again, but I know I read it in the summer of 1980, so maybe I will try to actually finish Walden.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Tristan, who has found the Holy Grail, is tossed ashore in France after a shipwreck only to be found by Cathers who are being chased by the High Counsel who judges them to be heretics. Tristan takes a liking to their leader, Celia, and vows to help her. Along with Robard and Maryam, a girl assassin, they go to Celia's mountain fortress and help them defend the group from the High Counsel, who has joined forces with the evil Sir Hugh.
This story is filled with wry humor, lots of action, and great cliff-hanger endings to chapters. Mr. Travaglini says in his letter that fans of The Ranger's Apprentice series will like this one, and having just read five of those, I agree. If you haven't read The Keeper of the Grail (reviewed here October 06, 2008), definitely look into it. Much more exciting than many books set during this period.
I'm afraid I am weary of Jacqueline Wilson after my binge this summer. Double Act is about twins, Ruby and Garnet, who live with their father and his girlfriend. The have very different personalities, with Ruby being the most obnoxious... I mean "funny and outgoing". Their father moves them to a small country town to start a bookstore, and the twins try out for a play, but most of the book is spent with Ruby complaining about school, the girlfriend, etc. Still, Wilson's books are hard to put down, and Picky Reader is still working through the pile I brought back from Ireland and hasn't tired of her yet.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Saw the sequel to Horowitz's Groosham Grange (reviewed March 11, 2009) in the public library. Had it on my list to buy but didn't remember it at all. It was just as fun as the first book, with David in competition with another student to win the only school prize, The Unholy Grail. David is on the receiving end of many attempts to sabotage him, so the contest is a tie, which means that the two are sent to the British Museum to steal an artifact, and are then pursued by evil characters from a wax museum! (Including Sarah Ferguson, who isn't really evil.) These have a Harry Potter feel to them, with the Hogwarts type school, and if the publication date of 1988 is correct, this is very interesting!
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Alfred Martino's Pinned (reviewed February 27, 2007) and Over the End Line are examples of great books that are just too old for my students. Jonny and Kyle have always been friends even though Kyle has the popularity that Jonny craves. Jonny is on his way to being a top soccer star and being popular, but all that changes after a drunken party when a girl is attacked by several of the soccer players and Jonny is too drunk to stop them. Riveting, interesting, and nuanced, this is just too much for middle school.
Michelle Kehm's Suzi Clue is also too old; some books dealing with prom go over well, but this one was unsatisfactory for reasons I can't quite name. Actually, the names were a little disconcerting, which is a personal sore point: a Spanish teacher named Ms. Picante, an indie girl named Jett Black, cheerleaders named Trixie Topp. The author has written for many adult magazines, so this just felt like a book for older high school students.
I really liked Patrick Carman's Atherton series, and am looking forward to his installation in The Thirty Nine Clues series, but his Skeleton Creek was something I couldn't get through. For one, it was produced in a handwriting font in all capital letters. This would not annoy students, but it felt like shouting. It is a mystery, with some horror, but is too slow paced for the students who prefer this sort of story. Too much time is spent on Ryan writing in his journal about how much he likes writing. The cheap Scholastic paper-over-board binding and the presence of a web site with videos that add to the story did not work in this book's favor. I can see it being popular at book fairs, however.
Fahy's Sleepless was really hard to pick up because the cover is just gross. Normally, I would think this is a big selling point, but again, the book gets off to a slow start. A group of students travels to New Orleans to help rebuild in the wake of Hurrican Katrina, and when they return home they find that they are walking in their sleep and killing people, probably due to a secret they all are keeping from their trip, or perhaps some voodoo at work. My students who like vampire/zombies/horror like a little faster paced story with a slightly lighter touch, so I think I'll pass. (Think Heather Brewer's The Chronicles of Vladimir Todd.)
Very excited about getting back to school! 6th graders start tomorrow!
Monday, August 24, 2009
To enter the contest, you can go here. I'm going to enter using the names of the GREAT Blendon Cross Country coaches who have suffered through two of my children!
The Sunlight Slayings: Reunited with Emalie's cousin Dean, who has turned into a zombie, Oliver, Dean, and Emalie go off in search of why vampire children have been mysteriously turning into dust, but when they encounter the Fallen Brotherhood--a human group that fights vampires, Oliver learns troubling news.
Blood Ties: Oliver Nocturne, vacationing with his extended family in Morosia, a vampire city beneath Rome, is shocked to learn that Emalie has stowed away--believing the city holds the key to her mother's whereabouts--and must come up with a plan to keep his family in the dark about her presence.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Jenny Han's The Summer I Turned Pretty was very good, but more of a high school book. Girl spends summer in the same place she has her whole life, but things are changing. Bittersweet, charming, but middle school girls are not quite at this point yet. The same is true of the excellent After by Amy Efaw. Devon is a straight A, soccer playing good girl who has a baby and abandons it in the trash. She is then arrested and put through the legal system. What I liked about this was that it really seemed to get inside Devon's head-- the denial, the confusion, the surprise. Too much detail for middle school students, but really essential for a high school library.
Books I just couldn't get into: Bryant's Kaleidoscope Eyes, mainly because it is a novel in verse that reads like prose cut up into short lines, a pet peeve of mine. Berg's Hollywood and Maine, because the 70s setting didn't work for me. Thompson's Pyscho Major Syndrome was again too old, Gill's Soul Enchilada had a bizarre voice, and Parker's Chasing the Bear: a young Spenser novel was told in super short chapters broken up by Spenser sitting on a park bench with his psychiatrist girlfriend. Ruined the suspense/action of it all. Then, there was the horrible, horrible adult memoir by Nathan Rabin, The Big Rewind. Wow. Apparently, he's famous for writing and being on television shows, and yes, his youth was messed up, but that still doesn't excuse the level of vulgarities he uses. Great cover, horrible book.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Sharon Draper does fabulous books for older students, so it's good to see her turn her hand to books for younger students. Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs is a mystery series, with four boys who build themselves a clubhouse and have secret passwords, etc. The Buried Bones Mystery is okay; I liked Sassy: Little Sister is Not My Name a little better, but this is fine stuff. I especially liked "School was over and the summer morning stretched ahead like a soft, sweet piece of bubble gum." I got a little confused about the four characters and had trouble telling Rico, Ziggy, Rashawn and Jerome apart, but the story is solid. There are six titles out so far.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
The low level fiction reading is depressing. The stand outs are the 20-year-old Martin Matthew titles by Paula Danziger, which are quite amusing, and a similar series by Sarah Weeks about a young boy named Phineas that also will be popular with boys who like funny stories. In general, though, they are Not Good Literature, and not even particularly fun to read, such as Suzanne Williams' Princess Power Books. These are for much younger readers, so I am not quite sure what students would think of them. I didn't care for them, but in the same way that I don't care much for 4th graders-- they are lovely when other people are dealing with them. I just don't want to. The covers look like bad Nickelodeon cartoons.
Guilty pleasure of the week: John F. Carson's 1967 The Mystery of the Tarnished Trophy. My father's elementary school librarian was deaccessioning books in 1975, and this was a title I was allowed to have because I helped her. It is probably the only sports book I read until about 1999, but I have kept it all these years. I was thinking about putting it in the library collection, but it really is such a wonderful story that I couldn't bring myself to. Walter's father was listed as missing in action in WWII, but his mother has never given up hope that he will return. She moves them to the father's hometown, hoping to find out what happened to him. Turns out he was accused of a theft and left in some disgrace, so Walter is determined to solve the mystery. Beautifully written and evocative of a lost era, it still makes me happy.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Friday, August 07, 2009
This is one of the Dublin Public Libraries; the other I visited was in an older building. This was in the Ilac shopping centre-- I had to stop and ask at a shop where it was. The security people actually yelled at me for taking this picture-- apparently, malls are terrorist targets. I feel so dangerous.
My reading is still going poorly-- still reading adult beach-reads like Nora Roberts. Next week, when I get back into the building and can commune with my beloved books, I will do better. Right now, they are shampooing the carpet, so I can't get in. Good news: the custodians buffed the tile and removed all traces of where the book shelves that were removed used to be.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Guilt admission: I've been reading Maeve Binchy books, since there is a new one out about Polish immigration into Ireland and I haven't been able to get it from the library yet. (There's also a Cathy Cassidy, Angel Cake, dealing with the same topic.) I have training on our new Destiny circulation system Thursday and Friday, then am allowed into the building next week. Right now, my desk chair is on top of the circulation desk, and all is chaos, so I don't even want to go in to work.
In a related note, rumor has it that the architects have decided to embrace the "bistro" look for the library. I'm not sure exactly what this means, although the end result will probably be a library that looks like the love child of Panera Bread and Pottery Barn. *Sigh* As long as it does not impede functionality, I'll be fine with it. In fact, the more fashionable, the better. In 15 years, it will be just as dated as the Brady Bunch look is now, and I will laugh.
Saturday, August 01, 2009
I liked Daisy. The juxtaposition between the paranormal activities and the mundane world of an older teenager amused me greatly. The writing is effortless and engaging, something I've been missing in YA books this summer. Fluffy? A bit. Fun? You bet. Just what I needed to get me out of my summer reading doldrums. I hope that another volume will be out soon!